It's no secret that technology plays a role in almost every business in the world. What might not be so well known is the growing West Michigan community of developers, programmers, designers and engineers that provide the expertise and creativity that makes technology functional to the end user.
As evidence of this growth, you need to look no further than the increasing number of user groups that are active in West Michigan.
For the lay person, user groups are formal and informal organizations that are formed around a shared interest in programming, software and technology. They exist to help individuals learn from each other and also "to learn from outside speakers" according to Ben Rousch, one of the organizers of a new site, Conga.
Conga's mission is to coordinate the various user groups by providing a central calendar with meeting dates, speakers and special events within the industry.
"The tech world moves very fast," Rousch says. "To keep up with these changes, you really have three options: learn on your own, read or join a user group."
Before Conga, Rousch says many of the user groups existed "in silos" without much formal communication between each other. With Conga, Rousch and others involved in this initiative hope to be able to consolidate all this activity. He encourages anyone involved with a user group to list the events on the site.
Although involved in the I.T. sector for over 10 years, Rousch did not attend his first user group until 2009 when the the economy left him a bit nervous and decided he needed to network more. Since then, he heartily recommends this type of networking for anyone involved in the industry. "The learning experience is cheaper than other alternatives" he says. "(It is) typically the "price of a beer. Everyone is very friendly and everyone is welcome."
To check out Conga, you can visit their website here.
Source: Ben Rousch, Conga
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs Editor